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Ministerial panel for urgent environmental clearance of RML Hospital expansion amid COVID-19 Crisis

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According to the panel, new and affordable health facilities is the need of the hour

An environment ministry panel has recommended urgent environmental clearance for expansion of the Centre’s RML Hospital, saying new and affordable health facilities were required amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the ministry recommended early this month the clearance of a Rs 463.76-crore project aimed at adding 509 beds to the centrally-located Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, which is presently doubling up as the nodal centre for COVID-19 patients. 

“It was opined that in the wake of the crisis caused by COVID-19, the healthcare service needs, new, affordable and state-of-the-art health care facilities, which have to be provisioned at the earliest in megacities where a large number of COVID-19 cases have been reported,” the EAC said in its minutes of the meeting, accessed by PTI.

“The EAC, based on the information submitted and clarifications provided by the project proponent and detailed discussions held on all the issues, recommended granting environmental clearance to the project, subject to specific conditions,” the panel added. 

The EAC, while making the recommendation, also asked the hospital to ensure that the building design takes into account the guidelines of the concerned State Health Department, if any, particularly in the context of the highly contagious diseases like COVID-19. The panel also asked the RML authorities to abide by the water and waste management rules and ensure no felling or transplantation of trees ‘unless exigencies demand’ and plant a minimum of one tree per 80 square metres of land. 

Formerly known as Willingdon Hospital, the RML Hospital was established by the British for their staff and had only 54 beds. After independence, its control was handed over to the then New Delhi Municipal Committee. In 1954, its control was given to the Central Government of Independent India. At that time, Environmental Clearance (EC) was not required, the document said. The proposed block will have 392 general beds, 51 ICU beds, 66 private beds, 3 Cath Lab, 17 Operation Theatres, 96 OPD Rooms, 60 PG Seats, 20 Departments and a helipad, it said, adding the helipad will be used only for the organ transplant patient facility and the VVIP treatment. The project/activity is covered under the category of Townships and Area Development projects under the EIA Notification, 2006 and its subsequent amendments, and requires appraisal at the state level. Due to absence of state EAC or SEAC in Delhi, the proposal, however, is appraised at Central level by sectoral EAC, it said. Once the EAC recommends a proposal, the final clearance has to be given by the ministry of environment. 

The hospital is providing free healthcare facilities of OPD, indoor, casualty and emergency services of all common specialities along with free drugs and investigation to patients. It is proposed to add a super speciality-cum-paid ward block under the proposed expansion which will have 509 beds. Post expansion, the built-up area of the hospital will increase from 87,343.72 sq metres to 1,55,384.37 sq metres and the number of beds will increase from 1469 to 1978,” the EAC was told. While granting the recommendation, the EAC noted that regarding Consent to Operate (CTO), the project developer had informed that application for CTO has been submitted to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) in November 2019 which is under process. 

“It is further informed that the condition regarding the requirement of CTO was given in the Terms of Reference (ToR) dated March 17, 2020, and in the same month, RML Hospital was designated a nodal centre to quarantine and treat COVID-19 patients. Since then, the project proponent couldn’t follow it up with DPCC due to challenges and immense pressure caused by COVID-19. The project proponent assured that they will line up to accelerate the CTO process by providing all requisite information/documents to DPCC once the effect of COVID-19 is reduced in Delhi,” it said.

“It also ensured that the copy of the CTO will be submitted to the Ministry, as soon as the same is issued from the DPCC. Looking at present COVID-19 status in Delhi, the above said project to be made operational urgently,” the EAC said. 

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